When Wisconsin landed quarterback Russell Wilson via transfer over the summer the Badgers instantly certified themselves as the favorites in the Big Ten. The thing is, even without Wilson Wisconsin may have been a tough team to beat over the long haul in the Big Ten. With a shot at the Big Ten championship game determined by their result in the regular season finale against Penn State, the Badgers were not only All Russell Wilson Everything, but Send Montee Ball to New York… Everything. Wisconsin smashed the visiting Nittany Lions, 45-7, to lock up the Leaders Division’s spot in next week’s Big Ten championship game. They will get their rematch with Michigan State, who secured the Legends Division last week with Michigan’s victory over Nebraska.
Penn State looked like they were going to pu up a good fight early on in the game by forcing Wisconsin to punt on the game’s opening possession and taking advantage of a Badgers miscue by running in to the kicker (punter Anthony Fera). Penn State’s Matt McGloin found a wide open Curtis Drake down the middle for a long touchdown pass to silence the usually raucous Camp Randall Stadium, but Penn State’s hopes would quickly be dashed. Wisconsin responded with a physical and fairly easy touchdown drive to tie things up, and McGloin threw an interception on the first play of Penn State’s ensuing drive (after Wisconsin had kicked the football out of bounds). The Badgers scored the next 38 points in the game to hand Penn State their worst loss of the season. Ball rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns and should continue running to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation (in my opinion). Wilson had some killer runs against Penn State’s usually sound defense, and finished his day with 186 (effective) yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
Penn State just could not keep up on this day, and while Wisconsin should take a tremendous amount of pride in the way they executed, this was the single worst performance I have seen out of Penn State team in a few years. The offense stunk, the defense was abysmal and the special teams (other than Fera) was flat. Penn State needed a near perfect performance to stand with Wisconsin and they did not get it. And Wisconsin did what good teams do with so much at stake. They stuck to their formula and worked every crack in Penn State they could create and exploit.
Now Wisconsin is clicking on all cylinders as they head to the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. This Saturday night Wisconsin will look to avenge their Hail Mary loss in East Lansing and if they played the way they did against Penn State and not the way they did against Illinois the week before, then it will be very tough for Michigan State to have a shot at going 2-0 against the Badgers this week. But here’s the thing about the Spartans. They are physically tough, and Mark Dantonio has turned in to one of the better coaches in the Big Ten. These Spartans are not afraid of anything standing in their way and if there is one team that stands a chance at taking out the Badgers, it comes from the state of Michigan. I think the Wolverines would put up a decent fight, but I like the defense of the Spartans in this one to give Kirk Cousins a chance to manage a game-winning drive.
We will have plenty more on this Big Ten championship game, as well as the rest fo the championship games set to be played this weekend, as the week progresses. For now, who do you like in this game? Spartans or Badgers?
Follow Kevin McGuire’s college football coverage and conversation onTwitter @KevinOnCFB.
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